“In today’s society, so much technology is considered throw-away - if it breaks, you buy a new one. This gives kids a chance to understand what is inside the technology they carry around and hopefully, the desire to learn more about it," said Candid Desjardins, educational outreach program manager at NUWC.
COURTESY THE NAVAL UNDERSEA WARFARE CENTER NEWPORT DIVISION
Candida Desjardins is the educational outreach program manager at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport. NUWC Newport’s program, under Desjardins’ direction, focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) after-school enrichment and summer internship/camp programs, primarily aimed at urban school districts. The program has won numerous Navy awards, including the Navy Mid-Atlantic Community Service Award in the Personal Excellence Partnership Flagship, Large Shore category, 3 times in the last four years; and at the Navy-wide level in 2010 as well; and the 2006 Rear Admiral William Thompson Award for Excellence in Public Affairs in the Community Relations, Shore, Small category. Desjardins, her staff, and volunteers are actively involved with hands-on STEM activities and are working with students in four school districts daily.
Desjardins began her career at NUWC Newport in 1981, working in the Test and Evaluation Department on undersea range software systems before providing technical communications for the NUWC Newport headquarters staff. She holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a master of arts degree in technical communications from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; as well as a master of science in education degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Desjardins is routinely requested to provide training for STEM instructors.
PBN: The SeaPerch Derby just took place on Saturday, Dec. 8. Can you tell us a bit about that?
DESJARDINS: The SeaPerch Derby was an open regional competition for local students participating in the SeaPerch underwater robotics program - a chance to compete against their peers and show off their vehicles. The vehicles were built over a course of many weeks, with the guidance of mentors and teachers. We had two high schools competing (New Bedford and Natick, MA) and four elementary/middle schools (Wilbur McMahon in Little Compton, R.I, and Devalles and Swift Elementary and Normandin Middle Schools in New Bedford). Students competed in time trials, obstacle courses and a deepwater retrieval challenge.
PBN: Why did NUWC decide to get involved in the program?
DESJARDINS: NUWC has been involved with SeaPerch for more than 5 years and brought the program to the area. We have been committed to hands-on STEM outreach programs, and SeaPerch was a natural fit to bring students together with our engineers and our areas of expertise.
PBN: What’s your favorite part of the SeaPerch Derby?
DESJARDINS: Watching the excitement on the younger student’s faces when they are able to accomplish something they thought was impossible a few weeks before.
PBN: Why do you think programs like this one are important for middle and high school students?
DESJARDINS: Today’s students have very few opportunities to do hands-on STEM work. This allows them to not only build something from scratch, but make mistakes along the way and learn to correct them. Something as simple as measuring and cutting pipe becomes important (and something the students don’t have a chance to do very often). In today’s society, so much technology is considered throw-away - if it breaks, you buy a new one. This gives kids a chance to understand what is inside the technology they carry around and hopefully, the desire to learn more about it.
PBN: Is NUWC is involved in and other education-related science and technology programs?
DESJARDINS: NUWC has an extensive STEM outreach program, sponsoring SeaPerch programs, competitive middle school math teams, advanced high school underwater robotics programs and elementary science clubs to help students look at scientific method in a new light, focusing on robotics and underwater materials.